Friday, October 31, 2014

2014 YCS Board Candidate: Celeste Hawkins (4-Year Term)

Read more about Celeste Hawkins at ycsfirstchoice.com.

1.        Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?

My top two priorities for Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) are increasing student achievement and reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions. 

As it relates to student achievement, it is important to ensure we have high expectations and a rigorous and engaging curriculum for all students.  In Washtenaw County, school districts continue to grapple with how to narrow and eliminate the academic achievement gap between minority and non-minority students, specifically the disproportionate rates of academic achievement that are negatively impacting many African American students.  It is imperative that we address factors that perpetuate the academic disparities that exist between minority and non-minority students in the YCS school district with diligence and intentionality. Disproportionate rates of achievement along the lines of race and class are problematic and I am committed to do what is necessary to change this trajectory.  The data is disturbing and these issues require immediate attention in order to work towards eliminating the achievement gap to ensure all students receive an equitable and high quality education—I believe this is a social justice issue and a moral imperative.  In YCS, we must be proactive in examining our student achievement data on a consistent basis, demonstrate accountability for the data, and review appropriate, evidenced based practices to promote positive outcomes in academic achievement.

As it relates to reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions in the district it is important to promote healthy and positive school cultures.  This is being addressed in part by the implementation of Restorative Practices and Cultural Proficiency—two areas I am deeply passionate about and as a board member remain committed to its success in YCS.  Both of these models are important for our district in order to improve school safety, help strengthen student-teacher-parent relationships, and create positive outcomes for students and the school community.

2.            What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?

The ultimate goal for our community should be to increase the number of students that are engaged and attending school regularly.  When students are not in school they are not learning and ultimately falling behind academically.  According to state and national data, there is a direct link to chronic school absenteeism and academic failure. This is not an individual issue to resolve; rather it is a community issue to solve.  All too often, families bear the burden of this responsibility, but they cannot do it alone.  There are often numerous barriers in families that prevent students from attending school regularly and we need to understand the root causes in order to effect change to reverse this trend which is negatively impacting our young people.  We need to actively learn about and understand our students and their families and explore what ways we can support them.  Reaching out to families through phone calls and home visits when a student is flagged after missing a certain number of days as a proactive approach can go a long way in promoting regular attendance.  As a board, we have already discussed implementing some of these steps and I am committed to making this a priority to ensure we follow through.  Multiple levels of engagement to promote and sustain regular attendance in school are critical for the success of our students.

3.            Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?

I believe the board should respond to staff morale using a very strategic process.  As a board member, I have discussed the importance of implementing a process where we are collecting data on staff satisfaction during the school year and as part of an exit interview process in order to have accurate data on why staff are leaving and to address issues related to satisfaction while they are employed for the district.  Having accurate and timely data helps us develop strategies that help us improve in order retain and attract excellent employees.  I believe implementing this type of process will impact staff turnover and increase morale in the district.

4.            Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?

As a parent and board member, I believe the district can improve in the areas of openness and transparency, particularly communication.  This is an area that is discussed frequently among the board and strategies are already being developed to address this.  Our positive messaging needs to improve and I am committed to ensure this happens.  Recently, as a board we decided to present on the district’s progress during the first year and we remain committed to doing this on a regular basis.  This was accomplished through presentations at PTO and neighborhood community meetings over the past month. It was important to emphasize all of the great things our students and employees are doing, which are often overshadowed by the negative press and unfair characterizations of the community and the district.  

As a district we need to do a better job of being proactive about our message by ensuring accurate facts, data, and positive stories are highlighted. District information needs to be readily accessible to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers. I am proud to live in the Ypsilanti community and serve on the board.  I have three children who have attended school in the district since kindergarten and I see first hand all of the great things our students and employees, are doing on a daily basis.  It is my responsibility as a parent, board member and resident of the community to positively promote our district and remain open and honest about our successes and challenges. We owe it to our students, parents, employees, and community members to not just talk about change, but to actually work towards effecting change.

5.            Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.

One decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months was to request a report on how the Restorative Practices and Cultural Proficiency models are being implemented with fidelity in our schools.  These reports were recently presented during our regular board meetings.  I am proud of the work in both of these areas because our district is seeing positive results in terms of behavior and building deep, meaningful relationships in our schools, which positively impact the experiences and outcomes of our students.  In short, Restorative Practices take incidents that might otherwise result in disciplinary action and allows students to 1) become aware of the impact of their behavior; 2) understand the obligations to take responsibility for their actions; 3) take steps to make things right.  This process has allowed student to learn how to interact and manage relationships with adults and peers and gain the necessary skills to understand how their actions impact others. YCS’s five-year commitment to Cultural Proficiency is unprecedented.  The intentional commitment we have made as a district to learn about the lives of our students and honor their experiences and cultures to enhance collective learning among students and staff is an important step in the right direction to bring all students into the full fold of participation.

A recent decision to expel a student was necessary based on how the law is written, however I wish it was decided differently in terms of the impact it will have on the student, the family, and community. The rigidity of the state policy on school suspensions and expulsions is very challenging.  Michigan has some of the harshest zero tolerance policies in the nation and therefore makes it very difficult when the school board needs to expel a student based on what you are bound to do by law. Exploring and exhausting alternatives in the policy while staying within the boundaries of the law is critical in keeping students in school and keeping our schools safe. The ultimate failure resulting from any expulsion is that numerous hours of lost school time means another child is excluded and is falling behind academically. 

6.            Former board members from Willow Run, Ypsilanti Schools, or Ypsilanti Community Schools: When were you a former board member? Were you appointed or elected? What did you learn from your experience on the WR, YS, or YCS board that you think would be helpful on the board now?

I was appointed to the YCS board.  As a new board member, I learned a great deal about how policies and procedures impact practices in our schools.  I learned how crucial the role of the board is in its service to the community.  I learned that my board service allows me to be a voice for all students, particularly those students who may be marginalized.  I have always remained firmly grounded in my purpose as a board member and my vision remains clear—my service on the board is to positively impact the lives of students academically, socially, and emotionally; to serve the community; set and adopt policies; and hire and evaluate the superintendent.

7.           Assuming that you are elected, name one other board candidate that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.


I believe all of the candidates running for the seven seats bring a unique perspective to board service.  I am seeking election because I am committed to the students and the community.  To this end, I would like to serve with any candidate whose interests are grounded in what is best for students.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 YCS Board Candidate: Dan Raglin (2-Year Term)

Read more about Dan Raglin at http://www.ycsfirstchoice.com/.

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?


Maintain and increase student enrollment is a top priority as is retaining and recruiting top talent in or district in all areas.


What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?


I wish I had an answer to this issue, my approach is similar to what we've done so far in our new district and that is involve our community and stake holders in the solution.


Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?


Maintain honest and open communication with all employees in our district.  Develop the kind of relationship that assures our employees there is no hidden agenda.  Help them completely understand what we have to work with.  Board meetings are open to everyone but if we need to hold special meetings then we should find a way to do that.  Engage the Union in this process.


Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?


Yes, we have totally kept our promises in this area.


Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.
Keeping students first place and allowing for student voice has worked extremely well.  The Truancy issue could have been communicated better.



Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.


I can work with anyone who is dedicated to the cause and can move our district forward.  



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 YCS Board Candidate: Maria Sheler-Edwards (6-Year Term)

Read more about Maria Sheler-Edwards at http://www.ycsfirstchoice.com/.

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?

As a board member and a district parent, I’m very focused on implementing programs that will help all students learn and achieve. In the first year of the consolidated district, the current board approved a number of programs that are supported by research to improve achievement (expanded preschool, balanced calendar, IB program, small learning communities). In addition, I’m committed to continuing our investment in restorative practices and cultural competency. Together these practices are helping create an environment for learning that is safe and supportive for every student.

Also, as a parent of two high school graduates who were heavily involved in fine arts and sports programs, I am committed to providing exemplary co-curricular opportunities for our students. These experiences benefit students by nurturing teamwork, discipline, confidence, creativity—characteristics that help students achieve in the classroom as well.

What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?

There is no single solution to truancy. It’s also not unique to our district—nor a problem we will solve in isolation. Our staff is reaching out and building relationships with our families and we need to continue to do this. It’s also important to build partnerships with others on the county level who have the same goal of eliminating truancy and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. I am committed continuing to work with the county’s School-Justice Partnership, which includes representatives from all area school districts, the legal system, and non-profits, who are working together on strategies to reduce truancy.

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?

We have phenomenal and dedicated staff working with our kids in many capacities every day. It’s my goal that YCS would be the first choice for families and parents, as well as the first choice for our staff. We need to retain our high-quality teachers and attract new teachers who want the reward of teaching in our community. This means listening to our teachers, investing in them with professional development opportunities, and providing competitive salaries. I would like to see processes put into place that would help us collect data, such as regular “pulse surveys” and exit interviews, to help us understand and address issues in a timely manner.

Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?

As a board member and communications professional, I am personally invested in regular and open communication with our community, and I look for opportunities to hear from people. Along with my fellow trustees, I have met with Parent Advisory Boards, PTOs, and Neighborhood Watch groups, to provide an update on the consolidation and our first year as a combined district, and more importantly, to listen. We need to continue this type of work, as well as implement a strategic plan for regular communications. Replacing the automatic system for calling district families was a small step in the right direction. But we need to do more to reach families, alumni, business owners, retirees, taxpayers, and all of the folks who have a vested interest in the success of YCS.

5.             Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.

I am very proud of the work we did with the community and the ISD in planning for the reconfiguration of the elementary schools last spring—the process was thoughtful, robust, and transparent. I came away with an understanding of the many different perspectives that were shared, and together the group created a configuration that makes sense for our kids and our community.

Regarding what we could have done differently:  we used a small part of the consolidation grant to hire a communications professional to help out at the beginning of the consolidation. I think we need to continue to focus resources on communication and community engagement, in order to share the steady stream of news—both the successes and challenges—that have come out of this process. The word-of-mouth network in Ypsilanti is strong, but like a game of telephone, it’s not always entirely correct. We need to do a better job of providing accurate and timely information for our community.

Former board members from Willow Run, Ypsilanti Schools, or Ypsilanti Community Schools: When were you a former board member? Were you appointed or elected? What did you learn from your experience on the WR, YS, or YCS board that you think would be helpful on the board now?

I was appointed to serve on the board in 2012. I had no formal affiliation with either district, outside of being a parent of a YPS graduate. Being a new board member, the learning curve was steep, so I have worked diligently to educate myself and understand issues that pertain to our district, as well as educational issues at the county, state, national level that affect us. I’m grateful that as a new board in an unprecedented situation, both districts and the ISD invested in our success with professional development opportunities, board workshops, and good counsel. These experiences—combined with the hundreds of hours spent meeting and talking with various YCS stakeholders and constituencies on a wide variety of topics—have helped prepare me to serve another term.

Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

I respect all of my fellow community members who are willing to step forward as board members and volunteers to serve the children and families of Ypsilanti. I have enjoyed serving with the board members who were appointed with me in 2012, who have each been professional, respectful, and dedicated. To name a single person is difficult, but I will say that in my 6-year race [Ed. Note: There are four candidates for the six-year term, and three open positions], the person I would like to serve with is Greg Myers. He is the father of four young children (three who are students in our district, and a toddler). He has proven himself to be a thoughtful and hard-working trustee who is dedicated to the success of all students. Also, as a resident (and board trustee) of the former Willow Run district, he brings a historical perspective that is very valuable as we continue to build community in our new district.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 YCS Board Candidate: Meredith Schindler (2-Year Term)

Read more about Meredith Schindler at: https://sites.google.com/site/meredithlschindler/

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?

My top two priorities are to a) get systems in place to fulfill the mission of the district on a fundamental level - accountability regarding delivery of services, supplies, etc., as well as a system designed to enable effective communication between the district and its constituents, and, b) to empower the teachers to develop and implement a curriculum and teaching and mentoring systems based on best practices. The administration's primary job is to support the teachers and students. 

What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?

It's about student engagement, given that there are always going to be some factors that we can't control. Students who feel valued and who see a path forward, and who feel safe and respected, will come to school. 

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?

This answer is the same for teachers as it is for students. Humans are social beings, and we need praise and to feel successful, and it really helps if we know we're an integral part of something larger than ourselves. Put this in place, and pay fair wages, and the staff turnover problem will improve. 

Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?

I don't know whether the board has tried to be transparent or not. I strongly suspect that they have. However, it's a matter of stating what's going on and then following up on it in a manner that is able to be followed. Also, not having a curriculum or even class guide published at the secondary level means there's by definition no transparency on that level. 

Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.

All decisions will have their advocates and detractors. I'm interested in going forward, not looking back. 


Assuming that you are elected, name one other board candidate that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

I'm running as part of a slate, and I'd really like to see us all elected.  [Ed. Note: The slate is Ellen Champagne, Meredith Schindler, Sharon Irvine, Bill Kurkjian, and K.J. Miller.]


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2014 YCS Board Candidate: Djeneba (D.J.) Cherif (4-Year Term)

Read more about Djeneba Cherif at www.electcherif.com


Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?



- Giving the Community a Voice in Our Schools: Our school system must be an integral part our community. As a community, we need to work alongside our teachers and leaders so that we can once again make our schools the schools of choice.

-Making Schools Safe for Kids and Teachers: Climate and safety are essential to improving the educational achievement of students. Our children can’t learn and teachers can’t teach when school life is disrupted. We need to work to create a school culture and climate that will help our kids be academically successful as well as--eliminating to the greatest extent possible—concerns about individual respect and personal safety.   

What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?



- Increasing Parental Involvement: Teachers can’t teach our children without help. Students have to be IN school.  Getting parents involved with the academic success of their kids is imperative to the success of our schools. We need to work towards encouraging parent/teacher/district relationships for the benefit of every student in our school district. We must hold students and their parents accountable while fostering a collaborative/collective environment.

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?



Turnover causes a shortage and affects the quality of talent. It is proven that schools that successfully retain the best and brightest talent save money and protect their intellectual capital. Turnover is formulated by dissatisfaction, lack of collaboration, poor culture and compensation.  The talent in the district has to believe and feel that their voice has validity. We have to begin to implement innovative strategies that will allow flexibility in the budget to provide attractive packages to our staff. We cannot attract students without a sustainable/powerful talent base (including support staff). As we continue to lose students, we will lose community teachers, causes parents to remove their students; a continuous cycle. Ypsilanti is unique because of the strong relationships built with families. Therefore, we must keep that base robust. I know for a fact that when teachers feel VALUED and APPRECIATED, they will work like crazy. And the sense of value and appreciation can’t just come from our students and parents; it has to be top down.


Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?


Before moving forward in making important decisions, it is important to ensure that all of the appropriate information is collected/provided that is first reflective of the voices of the affected parties. Education in general must be collaborative and inclusive of all stakeholders in order to be effective. That is the only way to ensure that everyone is driving towards the same goals while keeping the vision of the district in mind. Then, use that input, use your principles of academic excellence, positive culture and decency to make the best decisions. Being approachable and listening has to become a non-negotiable. Ypsilanti Parent, employees, and community members/taxpayers desire that.


Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.


-Area of strength: I appreciate/excited about the work of learning and one day becoming a culturally proficient district.

- Area of growth: This is not limited to the last six months. Ensuring that everyone is invested in the mission and vision created for the district (by the board) to ensure that everyone is moving forward collectively as one in the name of our children.


Former staff/former students (e.g. Sharon Irvine, DJ Cherif...): What lessons did you learn from being a staff person or student that you think you would bring to the board and be able to apply?


As a former student, I learned the value of relationships and the importance of HIGH expectations despite external factors which convicted me to act while demonstrating humility. As a first-generation college graduate, I stand on the shoulders of educators and community members who refused to lower expectations.  It was the power of the relationships I shared with my teachers that compelled my mother to bring her children to school every day (We must bring back that conviction to our district.) And to this day, those educators continue to mentor and guide me, even as a candidate. As a proud graduate of Ypsilanti Public Schools, I am no different than the students YCS serves; in fact, I am those students.  I have and will continue to partner with students, parents and teachers to ensure that the opportunities I've experienced are not only unique to me, but are available for every student in Ypsilanti. My hope is to serve not only as board member but a mentor. I want our students to unapologetically believe in the impossible.


Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.


There are 18 candidates total; 7 of which are candidates seeking seats for the same term as myself. The pool is comprised of urgent/dedicated community members, Ypsilanti parents, my former teacher, board members in which I served with as student representative and so many more. It would be difficult for me to select one person to serve beside.

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2014 YCS Board Candidate: Linda Snedacar-Horne (4-Year Term)

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?
 
 My two top priorities are:
 
A. To focus on implementing the new initiative designed from the Consolidation, during the Summer of 2012. This priority can be accomplished by supporting teachers creative approaches to teaching and learning.
 
B. To ensure safe teaching and learning environments and restore public confidence in the school system. This can be accomplished by encouraging a strong and vibrant community schools. Promoting the positive things that are happening in the school and cultivating safe and inviting schools.

What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?
 First, we need to survey students to find out why they are absent from school. Once that information is gathered, there will be a better idea of what needs to be done. However, I think if we had a more active approach to learning, students would be more engaged in their learning, thus it would lead to less absences.

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?  
To monitor staff morale issues, I think a survey should be given to the staff after each semester in a school year. After this information is gathered, have a discussion with Administration to see what ideas or support is needed to boost morale.

One idea to reduce staff turnover is being more supportive of the staff and ensuring a safe teaching and learning environment.


Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose? 
I'm not satisfied with the district's openness and transparency. I would propose that the district have town hall meetings in the community more often. Also, the district should set aside time in the school year to get feedback from parents, employees and students on how things are going and issues they are experiencing in the district.


Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.
 
A very good decision that the board made in the last six months was the support of the Ypsilanti Promise Program. 
A decision that the board made in the last six months that I wish had been decided differently is the Truancy Ordinance.


Former board members from Willow Run, Ypsilanti Schools, or Ypsilanti Community Schools: When were you a former board member? Were you appointed or elected? What did you learn from your experience on the WR, YS, or YCS board that you think would be helpful on the board now?
 
I was a former board member from 2006 - 2010 and again in 2012 [Ed. Note: For Ypsilanti Public Schools]. I was elected each term. What I have learned from my experience on the school board is that you must communicate often with the community and all board members. Always be prepared at the board meetings (review board packet, beforehand), so that you have intelligent input in discussions.


Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

One board candidate that I would like to see serve beside me is Djeneba Cherif. I think that Djeneba can bring a fresh prospective to the board. She is a young woman who attended Ypsilanti schools in the last seven to eight years and has been success in her endeavors.


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2014 YCS Board Candidate: David Bates (4-Year Term)

Read more about David Bates at http://www.ycsfirstchoice.com/.

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?

The top priority needs to be to increase achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap for by supporting those students that are struggling so that they also can achieve at high levels.  When we have a comprehensive strategy in place to address the needs of all learners other concerns like enrollment will take care of themselves.  Parents want and deserve to have their children in the best schools possible.  We need to fulfill our promise to the community to be the first choice for a great cradle to career education.


What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?


I talked with a parent recently who told me that every day her daughter can hardly wait to get to school.  As we increase our capacity to address the unique needs of every student, students, like this woman’s daughter, will experience greater success and they will be more inclined to attend and the problem with absenteeism will diminish.  Another approach that will increase our success is to build stronger partnerships with our parents.  


Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?


Teachers want to have success, student’s want to have success.  Providing teachers with the support they need to be successful, in a supportive, collegial environment will go a long way towards improving moral.  We have great teachers and our teachers love our students and want them to be successful.  We need to continue to provide the professional development and tools necessary for teachers to be able to meet the learning needs of our students.


Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?


The district web site continues to improve as a way to communicate with parents and community members alike with information about the District’s goals and points of achievement.  I would like to see the site become interactive with opportunities to complete surveys, provide feedback and ask questions.  Board members are visiting every school and a lot of neighborhood associations to report out on what happened in year 1, “YCS 1.0” and those presentations have been well received.  

Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.


Both of my considerations have to do with improving our communications with our community.  I think that it has been a good approach to visit our schools and neighborhood associations with an update on the past year “YCS 1.0” and information about our direction moving forward.  I do think that we need to redouble our efforts at communicating the great things that are happening in our district and I wish that we had hired someone with expertise in that area 6 months ago to guide that work.

Former board members from Willow Run, Ypsilanti Schools, or Ypsilanti Community Schools: When were you a former board member? Were you appointed or elected? What did you learn from your experience on the WR, YS, or YCS board that you think would be helpful on the board now?


I served on the School District of Ypsilanti Board of Education for two terms by election in 2006 and 2010.  I was appointed to the Ypsilanti Community Schools by the WISD Board in 2012.  It would not be possible in the space here to describe all the valuable lessons that I have learned in 8 years of service.  School Board service entails so much activity that is not commonly observed by the public, from student discipline hearings to staff matters, advocating for public policy to forging relationships with community partners.  

Above all else I have learned that every decision you make will have an affect on someone.  You need to have a very clear sense of your responsibility and obligation to the whole community, not just your friends or your neighborhood.  When you are faced with a difficult decision, you must do what is best for the children.  It is the only defensible decision!  


Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.


I often tell people that there is a reason why there are 7 members on the Board of Education.  A Board should represent a cross section of the community.  In Ypsilanti that means diversity of race, gender, age, and socioeconomic circumstances.  I would be proud to serve with any member who is present to represent the community in making decisions for the benefit of all children.

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2014 YCS Board Candidate: Mark Wilde (4-Year Term)

Read more about Mark Wilde at www.electmarkwilde.com

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ypsilanti schools?

Student achievement, and increasing enrollment, and that will help solve the budget issue. Which in turn will help with teacher retention.
 
What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?

Students have to want to learn and they have to want to be there.  Back in the old days we used to give students incentives for good attendance and behavior and grades. Perhaps it is time to revisit those practices.
 
Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?

A school board is supposed to oversee what the Superintendent is doing, it is not supposed to control anyone in the district, as such the school board needs to put measurable and enforceable milestones in place to make sure the superintendent is offering the best possible conditions available. And the board needs to make sure that the resources are available to achieve those goals.

Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?

I have probably been to more meetings as a non-board member than almost anyone else. When you take the time and make the effort to become and remain involved then you see that the board is being open.  You have to have your own eyes open.  If you do not attend the meetings then of course you will not what see is going on.

Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently.

My answer to both parts of this involve the same action.  Balanced school year.  We are no longer, and have not been for a very long time, been an agricultural society, so we no longer need the kids to be at home helping on the farm. The students have one quarter of the year off, all in a row, that is a lot of time to forget what you learned last year.  We should have longer semesters and come even closer to full year school years.  But a detractor to this is teachers need time for their own professional career development that would have to be factored in for this to be successful. And now that our schools all have functioning air conditioning it’s probably more comfortable at school than at home.
 
Former board members from Willow Run, Ypsilanti Schools, or Ypsilanti Community Schools: When were you a former board member? Were you appointed or elected? What did you learn from your experience on the WR, YS, or YCS board that you think would be helpful on the board now?

I was appointed to WR in November of 2001. I successfully ran to retain my uncontested seat in June of 2002. In 2006 I ran and did retain my seat. I waited until 2008 to run again and was elected. In the same vote in 2012 that I approved consolidation, some 5,000 voters said to keep me if the consolidation was not approved.  I went through some tough times cleaning up form a superintendent that was hired in 2007. I have learned about making sure you thoroughly investigate before you hire, and I have learned some of the warning signs when things start to go bad. I attended many of the professional development courses offed by the MASB Michigan Association of School Boards, effective boardsmenship like effective teachers need professional development. 



Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

I’m going to name two.  Don Garrett and Maria Sheler-Edwards. [Ed. Note: Maria is running for a six-year term and Don is running for a two-year term.] When Don and I were on the Willow Run board, we worked very closely together, and I learned a lot about his honesty and sincerity.  Now Maria on the other hand, when I first learned of her I was very disappointed that she had her own children in a different district, she has since corrected that, and she is has been seen actively involved in many the district events.




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Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 AAPS Board Candidate: Jeffery Harrold

Read more about Jeffery Harrold at http://votejefferyharrold.org/.

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all? Given that the majority of district staff are teachers, should teachers be treated differently (better OR worse) than other staff people in the district?

I think that all district employees should be treated with dignity and respect. Where there are still bargaining units, I would like to see someone in central administration with the responsibility to regularly meet with the union representatives to get feedback and work together to address mutual concerns and opportunities. Where bargaining units are not in place, there should be a regular system of receiving feedback from employees and a defined process for responding to problems and ideas submitted by employees for improvement and innovation in their work area and the district at large.

What is your position on the amount of standardized testing currently conducted by AAPS (Too much, just right, too little)? What is your attitude toward parents opting out their students from standardized tests that are not state-mandated? What is your attitude toward parents opting out their students from standardized tests that are state-mandated?
Currently AAPS may be engaging in too much standardized testing.  Students are being asked to take multiple standardized tests, but it seems so much testing is going on that teachers do not have time to make good use of the information from the tests to positively impact student learning.  They take away a lot of time from classroom instruction and for many children (and adults) they are a source of anxiety. Parents have the right to opt their students out of standardized tests, whether state mandated or not.  It is important for parents to talk with their child's teacher about their decision to do so.  It is also important for parents to understand the impact their decisions have on schools.  Ultimately, parents must make the decision they think best for their children, especially if they feel their children are being harmed by the testing.

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ann Arbor schools?

I want to focus renewed attention to the achievement gap. This will involve listening to students, and parents about their experiences, successes and failures in our schools,. It will also require that we engage in dialogue with teachers, administrators, and support staff to gain their perception of the barriers to student success. Utilizing this feedback and research on best practices for achieving student success, we can then engage in courageous conversations between all parties to find a solution that fits our community.


I would also like to see us adopt the “Solutions not Suspension” pledge advocated by the Student Advocacy Center and adopt the Model Code of Conduct passed this summer by the State Board of Education. The policy "strongly urges school districts to review existing zero tolerance policies and to adopt practices that allow educators to address disciplinary matters as opportunities for learning instead of punishment." (http://everyvoicecountsmi.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Model-Student-Code-of-Conduct.pdf


What is your opinion regarding the annexation by AAPS of the Whitmore Lake school system? If you had to vote today, how would you vote? What's good about the annexation and what challenges do you anticipate if the annexation is approved?

I am opposed to the annexation of Whitmore Lake. I do not think we have guarantees from the state to match the current projection for per pupil allowance nor do we know we will receive reimbursement for the complete cost of the transition. If the Whitmore Lake student population is not growing, annexing it will not provide new revenue. In addition, there has not been sufficient time to discuss what will be done to bring the Whitmore Lake schools in line with the racial balance we seek for our current schools.

Hindsight is perfect, but whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one
decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently. (Incumbents may wish to say how they voted on that issue. It's ok if you changed your mind after the fact...)

I think the District made very good decisions in closing schools in a timely manner in response to the extreme cold weather this past winter. I think it made a poor decision in the decision to privatize custodial services. 

Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

The field has a variety of talented candidates. It would be difficult for me to narrow my answer to two.








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